Natural medicine has long supported the notion that maintaining a high fruit and veggie intake is critical for a healthy heart. For anyone interested in learning about and protecting heart health, there is one herbal supplement that also offers unique heart-fortifying and nourishing components, the venerable hawthorn.
Frequently referred to as the ‘heart herb’, hawthorn is well recognized for its various cardio-protective abilities. For almost 2,000 years hawthorn berries, leaves and flowers have been used as a natural support for heart health, as well as for digestive and kidney problems. It is associated with supporting a number of serious heart concerns including angina, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, irregular heartbeat and congestive heart failure.
Having a change of heart, Dealing with a broken heart, Following your heart – just a few expressions we use that connect our motivations and feelings to our heart. The heart after all, is the symbol of love, right?
Why would we associate so many of our emotions with the heart? I think we’ve always intuitively known and felt the resonance of emotions with this part of our body, and that ultimately the health of our cardiovascular system is not just a physiological issue, but one of an emotional and spiritual nature as well. ~ Dr. Joshua Phillips ND
One medicinal herb that has actions known to offer support for the heart on all of these levels is the Hawthorn.
From scientific literature we know Hawthorn to be useful in the treatment of congestive heart failure, strengthening heart contractions, for arrhythmias, and for the health of coronary arteries, while helping regulate blood pressure and cholesterol, among other uses.
The innate connection between our emotional health and the physiological health of the heart is well exemplified by the Hawthorn tree. From traditional herbal medicine, even more of Hawthorn’s depths are understood. The ancient Celts considered Hawthorn one of its most sacred trees, symbolizing love and protection. Medicinal essences of Hawthorn are understood to support “opening one’s heart” and supporting personal expression while at the same time helping to cultivate courage.
One 2016 study published in the journal Current Medicinal Chemistry, points to hawthorn’s high polyphenolic content for promoting heart health. Additional studies hail hawthorn’s ability to naturally reduce blood pressure, recognize it’s helpful ability to avoid and treat angina, and for its ability to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from the body.
How it grows
The hawthorn bush or tree is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae) belonging to the genus Crataegus. There are a number of species of hawthorn, many of which are found in North America. The hawthorn herb is packed with beneficial health compounds that have been shown to boost heart health. And its antioxidant flavonoids are known to improve blood flow, guard against blood vessel damage, and help to dilate blood vessels.
Healing beyond the heart
With hawthorn it’s not just all about the heart. Researchers in 2008 revealed that hawthorn berry extract is excellent at decreasing inflammation, which at the root of most diseases. The research also shows that the extract of hawthorn berry is a free radical scavenger. Free radicals can cause cellular damage (including DNA damage) by stealing electrons through oxidation. A 2008 animal study showed how the extract has protective effects for the gastrointestinal system and appears to successfully kill off various types of unwanted bacteria.
Hawthorn berry tea is one way to take advantage of the many health benefits, widely available prepackaged or loose. Keep in mind that herbs of any sort contain components that may trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. As always, check with your medical provider before adding any supplement to your diet.
Hawthorn tincture and extracts are available at Hawthorn Healing Arts Center, as are a team of practitioners equipped to help you on this journey of attaining greater heart health and emotional well-being.